Christine Lovatt

When it comes to politics, I agree with whoever said, “I don’t approve of political jokes, I’ve seen too many of them getting elected”.

Politics give us many of the words we use in crosswords. Take the different kinds of governments, for example. The way our ancestors lived back in the hunter-gatherer days would be called anarchy, from ancient Greek a ‘without’ + arkhon ‘ruler’ so literally ‘without leadership’.

Other words ending in ‘archy’ are hierarchy, rule of those high up on the pecking order, although it originally meant ‘system of order of angels’ and monarchy, from the Greek mon ‘one only’ and arkhon ‘ruler’, usually from a dynasty.

Another suffix used for governing styles is -ocracy, the most common being democracy, from the Greek demos ‘people’ and kratia ‘power’.

Appropriately the word comes from Greece because the first known democracy in the world developed in Athens in the 5thC BC.

Citizens voted but had to be adult, male, and native to Greece. Slaves were not allowed to vote. Altogether, the voters comprised only about 30% of the population, but even so, they were way ahead of their time.

Since then there have been, around the world, many sorts of governance, such as plutocracy, the rule of the wealthy or   timocracy, the rule of property owners.

Gerontocracy means rule of the elders, adopted by many native tribes around the world. The philosopher Plato famously stated, “It is for the elder man to rule and for the younger to submit”. The ancient Greek state of Sparta was ruled by a council made up of members who were at least 60 years old and served for life.

Theocracy means rule by God, or by God’s high priest. In ancient Egypt, the Pharaoh was head of state and also divine representative of the gods. Two examples nowadays are Afghanistan and the Vatican, both ruled by religious leaders.

Autocracy is rule by one person, usually a despot.

Aristocracy, once the rule of nobility such as in medieval Europe, now refers mainly to the class of society holding hereditary titles.

A government made up of men only, which has been the case for most of history, is called an androcracy. There is also a word gynaecocracy, meaning ‘rule by women’.

Happy Puzzling!